Creating a cutting garden helps bring flora indoors

Zinnias are my all time favorite flowers for cutting. They come in many different types of flower heads and colors. They are also a butterfly magnet!

I like to grow flowers for the display of color they add to my landscape, and I also like to grow them to cut, arrange in bouquets and bring into my house. So therein lies my dilemma – I want cutting flowers but I do not want to take any away from my landscape. The solution – create a cutting garden!

A cutting garden is a separate garden just for growing flowers for cutting. Because a cutting garden is not intended to be on display, you do not need to make sure all the plants look good together or whether the colors complement each other, and design correctness gets thrown out the window.

You will need to place your garden in a sunny area with well-drained soil. Work some slow-release fertilizer along with compost, shredded leaves and/or peat moss into the soil before you sow seeds or transplant seedlings. Space the rows far enough apart to give the plants room to grow and give yourself enough room for weeding, fertilizing, watering, deadheading and harvesting. Plant flowers with similar requirements, such as sun, water and drainage together for easier maintenance. Place taller growing flowers where they won’t shade out shorter ones.

When plants are a few inches tall, spread a two or three inch layer of mulch around the plants. This will help conserve moisture, keep the weed population down and keep the soil cooler during the hottest part of the summer. To keep plants blooming, cut flowers regularly and cut off any spent blooms. Allowing spent blooms to stay on a plant will encourage seed formation which, in turn, slows down flower production.

While you are cutting the spent blooms, carefully check for insects such as aphids, which can infest plants. Plants will need about one inch of water per week, whether it is from rain, your sprinkler or soaker hose.

The choices you have of what to plant are almost limitless. You can use perennials, annuals and foliage plants. Need some vase-worthy suggestions? One of my favorites is the peony, not only because they are a beautiful flower but because they make my house smell so good!

Others you might like to consider are zinnia, marigold, speedwell, sunflowers, snapdragons and cosmos.

Another of my favorites is coral bells. Their delicate flowers add a bit of soft, airiness to my bouquets.

I like to include the foliage from hosta, lambs ear and various grasses to add texture and color in arrangements.

As always, Happy Gardening!

Karen Weiland is an advanced master gardener. More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs.html. The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange County, 636-2111 in Noble County, 925-2562 in DeKalb County and 668-1000 in Steuben County.

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